Looking back at 2020 in pictures, this is my year in art. Amongst all the other things that life has required, and the particular and unexpected challenges of 2020, making art has remained a constant source of joy for me. There is a certain peace that comes with putting your attention on one task, and the distraction it offers from the regular thoughts when that task is challenging. Being creative, in whichever way it manifests for you, can be a form of meditation. For me it is an opportunity to disappear into something else for a while, to challenge my abilities as well as my preconceptions, and to really focus my attention on what is.
I will never tire of the magic of watching a drawing unfold in front of me. Despite knowing the techniques that I employ the visual illusions of shadows and highlights creating a sense of form work every time, and this never ceases to delight. I love the tangible nature of art, that I have something to show for my efforts, and appreciate the time I get to spend really getting to know the individuality of my subjects in this way.
Top row, left to right: Bonny Miss Bonnie (pastel), Billy the Kid (pastel), Jay (pastel), Pepsi (pastel), Melissa (pastel)
Bottom row, left to right: An Apprentice of Indigo (coloured pencil), An Age of Indigo (coloured pencil), Lisa and Danny (graphite pencil), Barn Owl (pastel), What a Hoot! (pastel)
Sometimes it is fun to sketch rather than draw in a more detailed and precise fashion. I don’t do this as often as I might, but am finding of late that I am enjoying working quickly more often and am developing my style. This collection of studies are drawn with a carbon pencil and white pastel. Carbon pencils are relatively new to me but have become a tool of choice when I want to get very dark marks like you do with charcoal but without the smudging. By sketching on toned paper, in this case in a brown paper sketchbook, the mid-tones are already present so you can focus on capturing the darks and the highlights.
These quick studies are of Peanut, a burrowing owl who is hand reared and so tame and very friendly. I have had the pleasure of meeting him a couple of times and I am a huge fan of this little creature. It is a joy to sit with him and just observe his movements and markings as he chats with his owner Sarah, taking it all in.
If you are in Cornwall anytime I highly recommend paying a visit to Sarah, Peanut and his fellow birds with the the Bird Lady of Fowey. Sarah is hugely knowledgeable and passionate about the owls and hawks in her care, and offers excellent bird encounters and flying experiences in an intimate setting in the heart of Cornwall. Or like we did, if you are living or staying in Cornwall, you can arrange for Sarah to visit you in the comfort of your own home.
If you too have the good fortune to meet dear little Peanut any time, please do say hello to him from me.
I was invited to write a feature for the November 2020 edition of The SAA’s PAINT magazine. When considering what the subject might be I happened upon this owl, and I found its faraway expression so appealing as it looked to me as if it were deep in thought.
I really enjoy sharing the process of how I create an artwork. It is an opportunity to demystify what happens on the drawing board, and also encourages me to work in a more methodical and way than I usually do. The act of recording the stages, the colours used and the manner in which I work brings a focus to the act which can be really valuable. Plus seeing my words and art in print is always particularly rewarding, so thank you to The SAA. I hope that the readers of PAINT will find this tutorial as rewarding and fun as I did.
Introducing this wonderful Eurasian eagle owl, the star of What a Hoot! This is the third happy creature to feature in my series of joyful animals against blue backgrounds.
There are eagle owls living wild in the UK, and although I have yet to see one myself, I have had the great pleasure of getting up close to some which are in captivity at sanctuaries here in Cornwall. I find them to be particularly magnificent, in part due to their sheer size and strength.
This beautiful owl was a treat to paint in soft pastel, especially as it looks as if it is chuckling to itself, which only serves to endear me to it even further. One very wise, and I suspect witty old owl.